Aug. 16, 2011
SHENZHEN, China — Notre Dame junior guard Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) posted game highs of 13 points, six steals and four assists to lead the United States to an 85-33 World University Games victory over Great Britain on Tuesday night at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen, China.
With the victory, Team USA completes Group B play with a perfect 3-0 record, and advances to the medal round quarterfinals on Thursday, where it will square off with Finland at 8:30 p.m. local time at the Shenzhen Luohu Gym (8:30 a.m. ET in South Bend).
Diggins was the Americans’ leading scorer for the second time in as many days, connecting on 6-of-12 shots against Great Britain. She also tied her tournament high with those six steals, giving her 14 thefts in three outings at this year’s World University Games.
Notre Dame senior guard Natalie Novosel (Lexington, Ky./Lexington Catholic) and fifth-year senior forward Devereaux Peters (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) each chipped in with four points, six rebounds and two steals, with Peters adding two blocked shots for good measure. Novosel also joined Diggins in the starting lineup once again, as the United States opened with an all-Fighting Irish backcourt for the third consecutive game.
Chiney Ogwumike (Stanford) and Elena Delle Donne (Delaware) were the only other American players to score in double figures on Tuesday, each dropping in 10 points. Collectively, the Stars & Stripes shot 46.6 percent from the field (34-of-73), but it was the U.S. defense that was the story, holding Great Britain to a woeful .182 field goal percentage (12-of-66), including 1-of-18 (.056) from the three-point line, and causing 32 British turnovers (22 coming on steals).
“Skylar’s on-ball pressure is relentless,” said Bill Fennelly, United States head coach (as well as the skipper at Iowa State University and a former assistant at Notre Dame). “She just totally took them out of their offense and picked them for layups a couple times, too. When you have someone at the point of your defense dictating the pressure and dictating how the game is played, it’s hard for the other guy. Certainly that was the case (Tuesday).
“I thought defensively that was probably the best we’ve played,” he added. “We started a little bit slow and I don’t know if it’s because it was our first night game after our two morning games. But, Great Britain had a couple players who were not playing. That’s another thing, we anticipated a different line-up and when you don’t see it, sometimes you relax. Overall, we had three pool games where we played really well. (This) was a good way to finish it.”
“(Playing in the medal round is) like going into the NCAA Tournament,” Diggins stated. “Everyone’s level of play has to step up. We definitely have to take advantage of the day off (Wednesday) and rest our bodies because we know every team is going to be coming after us. They’ll be banding together to beat us. This team has to have the mind-set that we have the biggest target on our back and we have to perform up to Coach Fennelly’s standards, which is perfection at times. We can do perfection in stretches. We just have to make sure that we buy in. We have to be focused and ready. Now, it’s anybody’s game. It’s 0-0 and a lot of teams are just as hungry for that gold medal as we are.”
Ogwumike netted all four of her attempts from the stripe to put the USA up 4-0 with the game just 34 seconds old as the Americans never trailed in the contest. With the score listing 15-11, the Stars and Stripes went on an 8-0 run over the final 1:28 to end the period ahead 23-11.
After scoring the first bucket of the second quarter to close the gap to 10 points, Great Britain had no answer for the USA’s defensive press. The tenacious defense sparked the American women’s speedy transition offense, resulting in a 9-0 run that spanned just 1:20 of play and with eight minutes to go in the half, the USA’s lead was up to 32-13. The Brits continued to crack under the stress and managed just two more field goals in the remainder of the quarter as the U.S. continued its onslaught, outscoring its opponents 21-4 to take a commanding 53-17 halftime lead.
During the USA’s 30-6 second-quarter barrage, the red, white and blue nabbed seven of its 22 steals for the game and pressured Great Britain into coughing up the ball eight times and shooting just 3-of-16 from the field.
Continuing to put on the pressure, the United States allowed just four field goals in the second half as it outscored Great Britain 14-7 in the third quarter and 18-9 in the final stanza to close out the win.
Great Britain was led by Yemi Oyefuwa, who had nine points and eight rebounds.
Following a day off, the Americans will play Finland in the medal round quarterfinals, seeing their Scandanavian opponents in the World University Games for just the third time ever and first since 1987 (a 97-56 USA win during preliminary round action). The winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal will advance to a semifinal matchup on Friday night against either Australia (3-0) or Canada (1-1) at 8:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. ET in South Bend) back at the Universiade Main Gym in Shenzhen.
The medal round finals will be played on Sunday evening.
The World University Games are a multi-sport competition organized every other year by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The U.S. women’s basketball team is comprised of U.S. citizens who are currently enrolled in college and have remaining eligibility.
USA Basketball women’s teams have participated in 15 prior World University Games and collected a record seven gold medals, six silvers and one bronze medal. Since 1973, the first year the USA women competed in the WUGs, and including this year’s results to date, the United States has compiled a 92-15 (.860) overall record. In 2009, the USA posted a 7-0 slate en route to the gold medal.
Additional quotes, photos and other information on the USA Basketball World University Games Team can be found at www.usabasketball.com.
For more information on the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, sign up to follow the Fighting Irish women’s basketball Twitter pages (@ndwbbsid or @notredamewbb) or register for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the sidebar on the women’s basketball page at UND.com.
— ND —